Last week, Flanders Classics completed their data dump of course information for this year's cobbled classics, FC edition (everything but E3 and Paris-Roubaix). Of late the courses have been rather set in ... um, stone. Ouch. But methinks there are always some subtle differences. Let's walk through the non-Ronde FC races.
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
Question: why do the Gnomes translate "Omloop Het Nieuwsblad" to "Superbike Phillip"? Literally speaking, it's a complete disconnect, and as for the more subtle forces, I'm pretty sure they stopped rigging races for Gilbert by now. Anyway, let's look at the vital signs.
Distance: 199.9km (really?)
Climbs: Leberg, Hostellerie, Muur, Valkenberg, Kruisberg, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Wolvenberg, Leberg, Molenberg
Cobbles: Haaghoek, Haaghoek, Donderij, Ruiterstraat, Karel Martelstraat, Holleweg, Haaghoek, Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat, Lange Munte
Changes: Plenty. Last year featured 12 climbs, including the Varent thrown into the mix in the last 70km. This year, the early climbs are smaller in number. But nobody will care because...
So there's that. Also the cobbles stretch of Ruiterstraat, Karel Martelstraat and the Holleweg is a new and dastardly feature.
Thoughts: First, this is the ultimate showcase for the flat(ish) cobbles. No race puts them front and center again until Paris-Roubaix. If I have any say in the matter, these stretches will become as famous in the English language as the storied Hellingen.
As to the shape of the race, the finale is about the same, but depending on the weather we could find very few riders surviving that far with the leaders. Look at this stretch:
- 138km Taaienberg, 533 meters, cobbled, max 16%
- 143km Eikenberg, 1200 meters, cobbled, max 9%
- 146km Wolvenberg, 800 meters, tarmac, max 17%
- 147km Ruiterstraat, 800 meters, moderate cobbles
- 148km Karel Martelstraat, ???
- 149km Holleweg, 1500 meters, beastly cobbles
- 154km Haaghoek, 1700 meters, hell
That's about 18km of maximum effort, dropping riders off at the finale, whereupon they're expected to commence winning. Too bad this will be raced in February, because that's one hell of a course.
Dwars door Vlaanderen
The Nosebleed grafix don't seem to have a simple downloadable map, preferring instead an interactive one and a couple roadbooks. Dwars? Simple map:
Distance: 201km (really?)
Climbs: Nieuwe Kwaremont, Kattenberg, Leberg, Valkenberg, Eikenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Vossenhol, Holstraat, Nokereberg
Cobbles: Holleweg, Haaghoek, Varentstraat
Changes: Not too much. The center section had two hills cut out, so I suppose this race could feel slightly easier than the 2013 edition.
Thoughts: No news here. It's basically the same race as last year.
I got so excited when I saw this map a week ago that it brought my mind to a complete halt.
Climbs: Casselberg, Casselberg, Catsberg, Kokereelberg, Baneberg, Kemmelberg, Monteberg, Baneberg, Kemmelberg, Monteberg
Cobbles: None listed
Changes: Virtually unchanged. Maybe the odd turn here and there. So yeah, not much more to say.
Same as ever. 200km of occasionally interesting racing, leading to a bunch sprint. No features to discuss, at least not until we get a weather report.